A ROOKIE rock climber who only took it up as a hobby earlier this year will be taking on the gruelling challenge of climbing the world’s tallest artificial wall in seven months.

Simon Turner, from Builth Wells, and friend Bobby Garret fly to picturesque Switzerland in April 2021 to take on the Diga di Luzzone. And although spectacular views are afforded of the stunning Alps from the top of it, the task awaiting the duo is anything but a holiday.

The Lago di Luzzone reservoir is located in Ticino, with one wall of the dam presenting daredevils with a unique and challenging 540ft-high climb up a wall considered the Everest of wall climbing.

“I did rock climbing once with my son previously but otherwise I’d had no prior experience before this year,” said Simon, 32.

“Coronavirus has been devastating but I’ve seen lots of friends and others doing runs, walks or cycling and I wanted to do something too, but something extreme.

“The pandemic has given me the opportunity to train at home and come up with this idea. We started it in April so we gave ourselves a year to get ready.”

Simon has thrown himself into his training, climbing outdoors up at the Elan Valley in nearby Rhayader, at a climbing centre called Boulders in Cardiff, as well as finding places to climb in Grand Canaria, where he is currently working.

He is used to challenges too. He previously served in the Army with the Rifles and saw action in Afghanistan, as well as running a cross country marathon while serving, and since 2013 has worked for OES, an offshore oil inspection company, for whom he has been stationed all over the Middle East, as well as India and Thailand.

But this, he admits, will call on all his physical reserves. “I was an amateur with no experience starting this task six months ago but with local support I am developing skills on the wall,” he added.

“I’ve been training every day, using a pull up bar and finger boards to gain strength at home or at the gym.”

The Swiss dam has turned into a popular spot for adrenaline junkies since a German manufacturer installed a line of over 650 artificial holds and bolts in the 1990s. The course now covers a vertical distance of 165 meters, going from the base of the dam to the top. The climb must be done as a sport climb, in multiple pitches, with a ladder required to get up the first 20ft of the wall because the lowest holds were placed several meters above the ground to deter casual visitors from climbing on them.

Both of the lads are raising money for their chosen charities – Simon is collecting for Latch, the children’s cancer charity based in Cardiff; while Bobby is raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Society.

Simon is just a little bit shy of his £2,500 target but wants to raise as much as he possibly can for the cause.

“Cancer happens to everyone but when it happens to kids it’s devastating,” said Simon, whose own son Jackson has been his biggest supporter and coach since coming up with the idea.

“These kids have never had a chance. I’m overwhelmed and amazed by the generosity of people so far, but with the fact I’m so close to my target with a long time to go until the climb, I’d really love to smash my target.”

All money donated will be going to the chosen charities, with all funds required for the climb coming out of Simon and Bobby’s own pockets.

You can do your bit by donating via their Facebook page ‘Bobby & Simon’s big climb for charity’ or visit Simon’s Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/simon-turner50